MANILA — Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu can tap the military to contain the coronavirus pandemic in Cebu City as President Rodrigo Duterte's representative, his spokesperson said Wednesday.
The Supreme Court earlier ruled that soldiers can be posted in shopping centers and other public areas to implement pandemic protocols, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
"This is not martial law. This has been decided upon by the Supreme Court and this is as far as enforcing the ECQ in Cebu is concerned," he told ANC. "Normally, we have the police enforcing it, but if the police is not enough then the Armed Forces can also enforce the lockdown."
Duterte last week placed Cebu City back under the strictest lockdown level: the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ that limits economic activity to utility services, food, water and other essential sectors.
On Monday, the President told Cimatu, a former military chief, to oversee the quarantine of the city that is home to 900,000 people.
Cimatu "will not just make recommendations" and will instead "implement what he thinks should be done in the period of 1 week." He only needs to keep the inter-agency task force posted about these measures, said Roque.
"The mandate of Gen. Cimatu comes from the President himself, backed up by an executive order. He can exercise all powers that the President can exercise," he said.
"All the actions of Gen. Cimatu are tantamount to being acts of the President and if need be, the President will issue executive orders to give legal validity to any of the actions taken by Gen. Cimatu," added the Palace official.
COVID-19 cases in the Philippines on Tuesday saw its biggest single-day jump and reached 31,825.
The tally included 789 “fresh cases”, with 207 from Metro Manila, 288 from Region 7 or Central Visayas, and 294 from other areas.
"Region 7, where Cebu City is, has already more [new] cases than Metro Manila," said Roque.
Cebu City on Tuesday night suspended quarantine passes issued to 250,000 residents or about a quarter of its population.
"I suppose they'll have to issue new ones to ensure that only one from every household will get a quarantine pass to get the essentials," said Roque.
COVID-19 cases there spiked due to continuous mass testing that had screened at least 25,000 people since March, Mayor Edgardo Labella earlier said.